Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beluga Caviar!

The Missus told me on Thursday morning that we'll be having twenty-five people for cocktails on Friday evening at 6:30. The menu she requested was simple enough, a list of imported cheeses, deli crackers, red and white grapes, but when she asked for a half-kilo of Beluga Caviar my heart skipped a beat. (Thank God for over-night air!)

I can't seem to get it through her head that Beluga is banned as an endangered species. Instead, most everyone nowadays buys the next most highly prized substitute, Osetra caviar - which is simply a different Sturgeon species from the same Caspian Sea. (But seemingly in denial, it seems that rich people still refer to Osetra as Beluga.)

Anyhow, the price I paid Thursday afternoon online was $3,230 for a half kilo - a little over a pound - plus overnight delivery! Holy cow!

The expense of both Beluga and Osetra is simply the rarity, of course. The female has to be about twenty to twenty-five years old before she produces quality eggs. The older the Sturgeon, the better the eggs. And they don't kill the fish, you know, just harvest the eggs and put her gently back into the sea. (I've heard rumor about a hundred-year-old Sturgeon in the Caspian who's eggs are harvested only every two years, and bring a price of about $25,000 for a half-kilo!)

We've all seen cheap lump fish caviar that caterers sprinkle onto hors d'oeuvres, usually crackers with cream cheese and diced egg. But the real thing, Beluga and Osetra, is taken alone with a tiny caviar spoon - ours are made of mother-of-pearl. For a hostess to lay out caviar spoons is about the ultimate in luxury delicacies, and you know you've landed in the right place for the evening!

However, I once knew of a hostess in Manhattan (a truly kind, generous woman) who always wanted to give her guests the very best. But she also didn't want to appear pretentious or make cause for gratitude. So in her house you would never see caviar spoons laid out, but she had her chef sprinkle Beluga Caviar on top of crackers with cream cheese, as if it were nothing!

Can you imagine? Now that has to be the ultimate definition of class!

Hope this was interesting and fun, and thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Baby Diapers for Cleaning!

In my capacity as the butler for a billionaire family, one of our most important cleaning tools around here for polishing glass, mirrors and crystal stemware is old-fashioned baby diapers.

Why? Because they don't leave lent!

But golly are they hard to find - old fashioned flat-fold diapers. Earlier generations know about this of course, but when I told the Missus (who I dare say has never cleaned anything in her life), she thought I was nuts.

I finally found them at Babies R Us, made by Gerber. It even says on the outside of the package "For Diapering, Burping, Nursing, Car Washing & Waxing, and Household Dusting". Of course I showed the package to both the Missus and Nelda (our ancient Teutonic executive housekeeper) to justify my existence. The Missus gave me a polite smile, and Nelda loves them.

But here's a tip: You have to wash them separately from everything else or you'll contaminate them with lent from other articles in the washer and dryer, and destroy the whole purpose.

I hope this information is useful. Honestly I don't know what we'd do without them. As always, thanks for dropping by.


Monday, April 18, 2011

FAQ: "Are There Female Butlers?"

As a male butler in an American billionaire's home I've often been asked this question as to whether or not there are female counterparts. The quick answer is yes, but let me explain.

I read a quirky article (in the Boston Globe, I think) that said about ten percent of butlers world-wide are female gendered. But in America, this percentage is much, much higher. However, instead of the title Butler it seems female-gendered candidates in this position are more often referred to as House Managers or Personal Assistants.

But to be such you must have not only Personal Assistant skills for secretarial work, such as book keeping, organizing, personal shopping and so forth - but you must also know how to run a house filled with museum-quality furniture, plus entertainment skills for all the parties and events. Things such as the following:

-Keeping a household budget and paying bills.
-Setting a formal dining room table.
-International protocol for dealing with guests.
-Hiring and training staff, from making luxury beds to sterilizing telephones.
-Fabric care - not only for clothes but also for furniture fabrics and carpets.
-Deal with vendors and contractors and negotiate the best rate.
-Trouble-shoot anything from a dying orchid to a water heater or swimming pool pump going out.

To those who have shown interest, these are acquirable skills from any butler or house staffing school in the country, and there are several good ones on Google.

So if you're curious about going into this profession, as far as I can see gender is not really an issue, certainly not here in America. But knowledge certainly is!

Hope this was helpful, and thanks for stopping by,


Friday, April 15, 2011

FAQ: Do You Wear Uniforms?

A reader by the name of Becca in Ruidosa, New Mexico asked, "Do you wear uniforms at the mansion?" 

As the butler in a billionaire's home, that's a good question and it does figure into the scenes and scenarios I'm always trying to describe to you. The answer is yes, Becca, and no - entirely depending on the day and what social engagements are scheduled for the evening.

If it's a formal occasion:  At a sit-down dinner, large party or fund-raising event, Nelda and Ester will be wearing a gray dress with a white collar and white apron. I'll be wearing a Brooks Brothers tux or a dark pin-striped suit, according to the formality of the occasion. (Brooks carries the most conservative men's wear in America, perfect for this situation. Here's a link.)

If it's a simple cocktail party: Nelda and Ester will still wear the gray dress and apron, but I'll probably just wear slacks and a black polo shirt (again from Brooks).

And last, casual daily wear: Now here's the fun part; when I first started working here I showed up every day in Brooks Brothers slacks and various-colored polo shirts - and my relationship with the family was rather stiff during those first few months. Then one day I was called in on a day off for an air conditioning problem. I was unshaven, in jeans and T-shirt, and both the Mister and Missus warmed up to me that day, as if I were a real human being. After all, they run around the house and gardens in shorts and jeans themselves.

So the end result of that (for all of us) is that our fun and comfortable daily wear around the house is jeans and T-shirts with little black aprons to distinguish ourselves as house staff, in case unexpected guests drop by during the day.

This kind of attire would never do in a British household, I know. But after all, this is America and right or wrong, we are decidedly a little more relaxed.

Hope this gives a better idea of how things are around here.